In the words of Laura Carlo, 2017 has been a year of musical riches. Here's the proof: each member of our staff picked a favorite from this year's catalog of CDs of the Week - and nobody picked the same album! May 2018 provide the same bounty!
Cathy Fuller: The Borromeo String Quartet: The Well-Tempered Clavier
The Borromeo String Quartet has become a defining element in the musical world of Boston. I’ve been awestruck by their intelligence and passion for more than two decades now! Witnessing their performances is like receiving a magic blueprint of the very structure of the music, and this Bach recording has the same effect, giving color and character to every voice in Bach’s preludes and fugues for keyboard. You’ll hear these pieces as though in a dream, thanks to Nick Kitchen’s sheer love and reverence for Bach’s genius.
Colin Brumley: Cheng2 Duo: Violoncelle Français
We play a lot of music at my apartment, and if you were to bust down the door and come in at any given time, you’re almost guaranteed to hear either French Impressionism or death metal. Living with two cellists, they tend to DJ more cello-centric works, especially those of Debussy, Fauré, and Ravel. So when we featured a whole album of French Impressionist pieces for cello, I was thrilled. Even more captivating is the musical maturity of this sibling duo – they’re both teenagers, but you’d never know it. It has since become an apartment listening staple. Bien fait!
Rani Schloss: Piffaro: Back Before Bach
Why is this my favorite CDOTW from 2017? Easy. Every day needs more krumhorn.
Brian McCreath: Riccardo Chailly: Overtures, Preludes, and Intermezzi
When, at the beginning of this year, conductor Riccardo Chailly took up the post of music director of La Scala, the legendary opera house in Milan, it was a homecoming. Born and raised in Milan, Chailly, at the age of 20, became Claudio Abbado’s assistant conductor at La Scala. Later, he led both the world-class Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam and the equally amazing Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig, with whom he made a series of astonishing recordings. Now, with the Filarmonica della Scala, Chailly brings his infectious and inspiring enthusiasm to the core of both his and the orchestra’s artistic identity, the language and passion of Italian opera.
Kendall Todd: Mutterissimo: The Art of Anne-Sophie Mutter
This past spring, I went with a friend to see Anne-Sophie Mutter play Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and it was nothing short of electrifying. As a violinist myself, I'm picky about the soloists I listen to; after that concert, Mutter skyrocketed to the top of my "favorite musicians" list, and she's been there ever since. Of course I had to choose her album "Mutterissimo" as my CD of the Week of the Year - how could I pass up two entire discs of the best of Mutter's best recordings? There's really something for everything here, from Brahms to Kreisler to, yes, Tchaikovsky - and they're all as mind-blowingly dynamic as you'd expect from a violinist who, in an interview for our podcast The Answered Question, laughingly explained, "I just love to play fast!"
Larry King: Spanish String Music with Serebrier
I have to admit this past year has opened the door for me into the world of Spanish music. Some years ago, I visited Columbia, Ecuador and Peru on a college concert tour that ultimately unlocked my mind to music from South America. My recent sojourns to London, Paris, Venice, Florence and Rome have awakened in me a desire to travel to Spain, feeling the need to savor the styles and uniqueness of music from the Iberian Peninsula. My pick for CD of the Year comes from that rich Spanish flavor: Spanish String Music with Jose Serebrier. Here is a CD that is simply "good listening." Containing orchestrated versions of Spanish music originally written for piano and guitar, I was moved by music that is simply under performed and perhaps not truly understood in our American culture. The world renowned Uruguayan conductor and composer Jose Serebrier and Concerto Malaga String Orchestra put the zest of colorful Spanish folk and dance music back in my ears and into my head.
Laura Carlo: how can I pick just one?!
Pick a favorite “CD of the Week,” they said. It’ll only take a minute, they said. Hah!
The truth is I really liked so many of this year’s offerings that narrowing it down to one is impossible for me. Still, I find myself re-listening to a few: Lucienne Renaudin Vary’s “The Voice of the Trumpet” was polished and assured. Hers will be a big name in the years to come. Pianist Angela Hewitt is a long-time favorite of mine and her rich-yet-playful “Scarlatti Sonatas” did not disappoint. I’ve been a fan of pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy for years and his Bach CD was superb. Internationally renowned cellist Steven Isserlis’ “Haydn & Bach Cello Concertos,” (which, truth to tell, wasn’t from J.S. but rather, son CPE, and also included Mozart and Boccherini) was a master class on a small plastic disc. Lutenists Michele Carreca’s “Mr. Dowland’s Fortune,” and Hopkinson Smith’s “Mad Dog” were perfect CDs for “mind vacations.“ Harry Christophers conducting the Handel & Haydn Society’s “Haydn,” Jose Serebrier’s orchestral take on Spanish guitar music, and Yannick Nezet-Seguin conducting the Chamber Orchestra of Europe in Mendelssohn Symphonies 1-5 were three takes on the art of conducting. Different approaches to the podium - with the same passionate outcomes. 2017 may have been a tumultuous year in other aspects of our lives, but in classical music recordings... we were blessed with musical riches.
Chris Voss: Daniel Hope: For Seasons
To release a new album of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, you really need to have something new to say. And Daniel Hope, in “For Seasons,” does. Not that the spirited performance of the Vivaldi that Hope gives doesn’t alone make this album worth it, but this album is more much than just Four Seasons. In a concept album approach, each month is singled out individually and is paired both with a different composer’s music, and with a different visual artists’ work: March is dedicated to a minimalist take on Vivaldi’s Spring by Max Richter, and the stunningly realistic Drawn Face VI by Dirk Dzimirsky; December takes Chilly Gonzales’ dark tango Wintermezzo and combines it with Silvana Hope’s striking Eloise in Winter. It’s an album you’ll want to have in your hands to get the full effect, and with it I promise you, you wont be able to help but listen to “For Seasons,” from beginning to end.
Alan McLellan: Yannick Nézet-Séguin: Mendelssohn: Symphonies 1–5
At the age of 42, Yannick Nezet-Seguin is a young conductor to watch, in at least a couple of ways. He’s immensely fun to watch, because of his limitless passion for the music and the way he demonstrates it on the podium. Just watch him in one of the many videos you can find online. But he’s also one to watch, in terms of the trajectory of his career. He began as a piano student at the age of 5, and when he was 10 he decided he was going to be a conductor. He went on to conduct the Orchestre Metropolitain in Montreal when he was 25, and he is still the music director there. But in the meantime he took on conductorships in Rotterdam, Philadelphia, and now the Metropolitan Opera.
These recordings of the Mendelssohn Symphonies show him at his liveliest, channeling the youthful energy of the young Mendelssohn. Listening to them just makes me smile!